Free Extreme Fiction

About Emerald

    This series of dream pieces are unique in a variety of ways. For one thing, I'm not even sure how many there are. Eight? Nine? Something like that. I wrote them in the late eighties and early nineties in response to what, so far, has turned out to be the most catastrophically awful event of my life, the death of my mother, of lung cancer, at age 59. I self-published them as part of an overall...okay, even as I write this, in my mind, things are getting complicated.
    I'll start from the beginning.
    By the way, this introduction is probably going to be longer word-count-wise than the entire series itself. 
    This is important, though.
    If you want to understand anything at all about how close and intertwined a relationship between the art and craft of writing fiction and life itself can get, this is important.
    Again, we'll start with the death of my mother. I was thirty-four, part of a family of five that, over the years, as we married and began to raise our children, (although I, personally, did neither of those two things. I was too busy being an introverted writer geek. I didn't get married for another three years), swirled around and lived in my mother's huge, five-bedroom house like bees around a hive. And then she died. Our family shattered. I shattered.
    And this is the form the shattering took:
    Nightmares.
    Everytime I fell asleep, nightmares.
    And I don't mean, like, I'd wake up and think, oh my goodness, that was an odd dream. No. These were the kind of nightmares where I'd wake up like I'd just been slapped by a prison guard, sitting upright in bed, breaths short, sweaty, panicked. Every time I fell asleep this happened. My response was, okay, you're going through a major life trauma after all, this nightmare stuff is just part of the deal, but after about a year of these nightmares, I started thinking, oh man, are these ever going to stop? Am I ever going to get another restful sleep again in my life? I began to seriously envy my two sisters. They'd been into those self-help books for years, and, now that something truly horrible had happened to them, they had dozens of therapeutic tools and support groups to get them through the travail, and I had nothing. I lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment, and I worked at my job, and I wrote, and I read both War and Peace and Les Miserables to help me to get to sleep at night, and I spent the year after my mother's death going slowly out of my mind from these friggin' nightmares.
    I had absolutely no control over them. That's what most frustrated and angered me about that period of my life.
    It was the writing that saved me in the end.
    I'll tell you how:
    Damn it, I didn't start from the beginning, after all.
    I'll have to drop back a couple of years.  
    I've written fiction all my life really, pretty much since I learned to write at seven or eight years of age, and when I hit, say, twenty-six, twenty-seven, it occurred to me that I didn't, personally, know any writers besides myself. As part of an effort to rectify that situation, I attended a weekly open-mic series called Red Sky Poetry Theater. No federal or state grants. Red Sky existed entirely on donations, and not many of those. Basically, it was just a bunch of people who loved writing and especially poetry getting together every Sunday afternoon for three-to-six hours. I think this went on, for, like twenty-plus years. And from Red Sky other things evolved. Some excellent small-press chapbooks and periodicals came out of Red Sky. I first met and got to know Trudy at Red Sky, my beloved wife for the last twenty-three years.
    And, out of Red Sky, came something else: a quarterly called Open Sky. What we did with Open Sky was we'd create a page or two or our own poetry or fiction or art or whatever, and, as individuals, we'd pay to run off a couple hundred copies of these pages, and then we'd meet somewhere to collate the pages to create the periodical itself. It was like the old APAs the science-fiction fans turned out, only we filled Open Sky with writing and art rather than fan stuff. Open Sky ran for three years, and my contribution was a twelve-part serial called Howling in the Winds, a Wolf Man-Frankenstein-Dracula revisit. (I no longer have copes of this serial in my possession. Still, someday I hope to run all twelve-parts in FEF.) Right around that third year, that's when Mom died. Again, pale, hollow-eyed devastation. I finished the serial even as I fell apart.
    The following year, they initiated a second version of this fiction-poetry-APA concept. This one was called Open Sound. I didn't have another serial that I was dying to do, but I did want to contribute something. But what?
    The answer came to me one very early morning after bolting awake after yet another frantic nightmare. I decided to create an artless comic strip. Can you visualize that? I mean, I'd get out my ruler and pen, and I'd make these comic strip panels, and I'd fill these panels with words rather than images, and these words would be descriptions of my dreams, these dreams that were ruining my life and terrified and traumatized me so. I used the images from my dreams to create this particular series of written-art pieces, which I called Emerald Dreams or Emerald City. (I'd have done a real comic strip, only I have no visual sense whatsoever. I haven't a clue how to render a recognizable image on paper. Like with music, the whole process seems like magic to me. How do artists do it?) Dream images are so damned powerful anyway. They're so surrealistic, so metaphorical, at least so far as it concerns one's own life. They're perfect for fiction and have been used in fiction since communication itself began. Again, I don't know how many of these pieces I churned out over two or three years, but there's around nine or ten, I believe. Trudy and I got married and began our lives together during this time. No longer afraid of falling asleep, I kind of looked forward to it because then maybe I'd have another dream that I could incorporate into Emerald Dreams. And that's when they stopped. I started trolling my nightmares for source material, and that stopped them.
    Bottom line: Take up an art, people. Wherever your instincts tell you to go. That's my advice.
    Seriously, it can save your life.